After tough 2020, Swinney thankful for a "special night" at Wake
|Sunday, September 13, 2020, 9:01 AM- -|
For Dabo Swinney, every season opener and every game are special, but 2020 will hold a special place in the Clemson head coach’s heart after everything his players, coaches and the world have been through over the last six months.
For so long, there were questions about whether there would even be a college football season and it wasn’t until August that things started trending up, so when Swinney and his team loaded the buses, he made sure to enjoy the ride and every moment associated with Clemson’s 37-13 win over Wake Forest.
“You know, it was emotional. It really was. This is what we love to do,” Swinney said after the game in Winston-Salem. “I mean, this is not just a job. This is our passion. This is what we love to do. It’s hard work, but I don’t consider it work. This is our passion. Coaches love to coach and everybody who’s part of the program, they love what they do. Our players love to play. Nobody had to be here. Everybody could have quit. Everybody could have walked away or everybody could have gone – coaches, players, everybody. Everybody kept the faith. And here we are. It was a special and emotional night, you know, it really was. Just to see these guys, their love for one another – amazing and it just gives you so much hope when you see the type of young people that we have in our program. It’s a beautiful thing.”
Clemson’s game day looked a little different with restrictions placed on their hotel stay, but Swinney said through it all -- he saw the hearts of his players and staff.
“Today was normal for us. It was just a different experience at the hotel, that’s for sure,” Swinney said. “Just because of how we had to do things. But we made it work. We’ve always had a lot of servant leadership in our program. But, man, I got a chance to see it first-hand on this trip. Just seeing everybody step up and have to perform different roles and things.
“We literally served every meal to our players, our staff. We served them because there was no staff to do that. We had to break down and set up. And usually we have multiple meeting rooms, but we couldn’t do that because of social distancing. You had to have one huge room and it’s got to be the room for everything. So, we got to eat there. You got to meet there. You got to walk through there. We did our movie there. So, it was a very unique setup, but everybody embraced it. Our staff just did an amazing job to create as much normalcy as we could.”
Once game time rolled around, it was business as usual.
“But once we got on the bus and we headed to the park, listen, it’s time to play,” Swinney said. “I knew we were ready. The mindset of our team was right where it needed to be. I thought Wake Forest, did a really good job of trying to create as much of an atmosphere as they could with no fans. But, yeah, once we kicked it off, we’re always so locked in. And it’s really as a coach, you really don’t notice that stuff. Just so locked into what you’re doing and caught up into the game and strategies of the game that it just seemed just like football. It was as normal as ever. It was weird to be able to hear a little bit more than what you normally would be. It was a great experience. And again, I’m just thankful for the opportunity.”
Wake Forest head coach Dave Clawson said that no matter what happened on the field Saturday night, just playing the game was a win and Swinney concurred.
"I would agree. The undertaking to get to this point, it definitely was a win, no doubt about it," Swinney said. "These kids on both sides wanted to play ball. I know the Wake Forest players worked extremely hard. This was a special night for all of us, for all of college football - everyone who has the opportunity to get back out there. Hopefully, we can be a good example moving forward and continue to do a good job."